Welcome to Lake Mead, our Nations first and largest National Recreation Area. Established in 1964, the National Park Service manages the waters and the land along 140 miles of Colorado River, including the man-made reservoirs Lake Mead and Lake Mohave for the recreational enjoyment of 7 million visitors annually.
Lake Mead was created by the first impoundment constructed along the 1450 mile Colorado River. Authorized by Congress in 1928, and the financial appropriation in 1931, the Boulder Dam Project (know today as Hoover Dam) was completed nearly two and one-half years ahead of schedule, and one and one-half million dollars under budget.
The Bureau of Reclamation designed and supervised construction of the world’s largest concrete dam that resulted in the creation of the world’s largest man-made reservoir. Lake Mead was named in memory of Elwood Mead former commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation
Through a letter of understanding within the US Department of Interior, the National Park Service is authorized to manage the recreation interests of Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The Bureau of Reclamation operates and maintains the Hoover Dam, and regulates the flow of water through the upper and lower reservoirs in the National Recreation Area.
Recreation and generation of hydroelectric power are secondary benefits to the impounded water of Lake Mead. The primary intent of harnessing the Colorado River is to deliver water to communities in California, Arizona and Nevada for municipal, industrial and agricultural use.
Located 30 miles from Las Vegas, tourists visit Hoover Dam and adjacent Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Today 7.1 million people enjoy the recreation benefits of Lake Mead National recreation Area for boating, fishing, swimming, hiking, biking and camping. Lake Mead National Recreation Area is the seventh most visited unit of the 417 units managed by the National Park Service.
Wildlife viewing includes desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, coyote, fox, rabbits, squirrels, desert tortoise, peregrine falcon, bald eagle, and 240 species of birds, migratory waterfowl and shorebirds.
American Bald Eagles winter in the National Recreation Area from late September to early May. The annual count of American Bald Eagles on Lake Mead and Lake Mohave since 2010 equals, or exceeds 160 birds. The first breeding pair was observed in 2010.
Today you can visit the former pioneer settlement of St. Thomas and view foundations of homes and community buildings, and abandoned streets. The 1865 Mormon settlement was displaced in 1935 by waters of the Colorado River. The current water level in Lake Mead approximates the water level in 1937 as Lake Mead filled. Today, Southern Nevada residents and tourists play and recreate where pioneers settled and early civilizations hunted and gathered.
Nearby, the Lost City Museum of Archaeology sits atop a mesa bordering the national recreation area. The museum is a repository of early civilization artifacts collected from the area between 1924 and 1935, prior to flooding by waters of the Colorado River and Lake Mead. The museum collection includes earthen stoneware, tools and weapons used by the Anasazi or Ancestral Puebloans.
Archaeologists named the site Pueblo Grande de Nevada. A portion of the museum encloses Ancestral Puebloan archaeology. On the museum grounds a pit house was reconstructed on the site of an AD 655 underground dwelling. Reconstructed above ground adobe pueblos give visitors an idea of housing and food storage units occupied by Ancestral Puebloans.
The year 1935 is remembered for three projects that contribute to the current tourism industry in Southern Nevada; completion of the Hoover Dam (formerly known as Boulder Dam), opening of the Lost City Museum of Archaeology (formerly known as Boulder Dam Park Museum), and opening of the Valley of Fire State Park (first state park in Nevada).
Lake Mead National Recreation Area Alan Bible Visitor Center, located along US Highway 93 overlooking Lake Mead, displays interactive exhibits, shows a movie about the recreation area, and is a source of printed resources.